History and Goals
I like lifting heavy things and putting them on the ground again. As a PhD candidate who is over 30 with shoulder problems and has too many hobbies already, my progress over the past few years has been good. After a year of steady strength gains and too much pizza, I knew I needed to get my nutrition to a better place. I really wanted to keep as much strength as possible, while motivating myself to eat healthier and drop body fat. So I spent another year researching and trying different approaches, but still was able to improve my strength. When COVID hit we were pretty devastated, and it was hard not having access to a gym for a number of months. One of the first approaches throughout all of this that I tried was RP. I immediately felt the cut and I was miserable. It felt extremely restrictive for me to try and fit food into exact macros and I was grumpy and cold. As soon as I started eating normally again (after only losing a kg or so from the short duration) my period started which was really strange for me. Programs like that were obviously not going to work well for me.
One of my biggest hurdles was accountability. I know the basics of nutrition and I don’t need someone giving me an exact meal plan. What I really needed was someone to provide me with feedback on how things were progressing, to keep me in the right mindset, and to just have some reassurance. So I went with Black Iron Nutrition, the Quickie Program. I wanted to just try it out for three months (that is the minimum amount of time) and see how I felt. Counting calories is not something I like doing, so I have been personally focused on eyeballing portions then weighing them. It’s been a good learning process.
In terms of strenghth programs, I really like powerlifting style workouts. I find them to be sufficiently challenging and not overly complicated in their approach. At the start of the year I really wanted to do a chin-up or pull-up unassisted, and I wanted to increase my 1 rep maxes. Originally, I wanted to get to a 100 kg (220 lbs) deadlift, but that wasn’t in the cards because… 2020. AtS 2.0 by Greg Nuckols was released in late summer and I immediately got it. I have enjoyed Marisa Inda’s programs a lot, but it was time to try some new stuff.
Before and After Stats
Duration: August to November
Height: 160 cm
Weight: 60 kg to 57 kg
Body Fat Estimate (by circumference measurements): 30% to 26% (seems like a lot)
Waist: 74.5 cm to 70 cm
Chest: 78.5 cm to 73 cm
Hips: 97 cm to 95 cm
Thighs: 58 cm to 55 cm
The approach was very straightforward. My coach gave me a protein goal and a calorie goal. The rest was flexible. We started out by increasing my calories a bit from where I was. Going into it I was eating about 1600 calories per day. We slowly increased calories to about 1850 per day and protein remained at 125 g. My weight fluctuated but started going down throughout this process. A part of that, I think, was me just taking a closer look at what I was actually eating, and incorporating more healthy things because I knew I needed to. Another part of that is my metabolism came back a bit, I was more energetic, the dogs walks got longer, and honestly I was just up and about more. My coach thought we could increase to 1900 or so, but I decided I wanted to start cutting at that point.
Throughout the cut, calories were decreased by 50-100 per week until I started losing weight. We played a bit of a cat and mouse game where I would lose one week and not the next, so calories would drop. This went on for the first month and then we landed on 1625 where I was losing pretty steadily. We have kept it there for the final month, again with protein always at 125 g.
Overall the program suited me. I hated all the weighing and tracking, but it got me to see where I was going wrong in my nutrition. I didn’t feel very deprived until the last couple of weeks, and I think that is just burnout from all of the tracking (comparatively it was not much, but for me it was annoying). I did a bit of trading when it came to alcohol and other treats, and got me to finally admit that my beer was doing me dirty.
Until the start of this month gyms were open for us. I was running AtS 2.0 by Greg Nuckols 3-4x per week. I cycle to work and the gym (about 30-40 minutes per day), and walk the dogs for a total of 45 minutes to an hour per day.
If you are interested in a powerlifting program, AtS 2.0 is a great buy. It is pay what you want with a minimum of $5. If you can lift the barbell you can use the program. For bench I found it was worthwhile to buy microplates. Depending on your recovery between sets, it can be a long session in the gym. I would spend 1-2 hours, depending upon my own motivation and the number of accessories I did.
I am pretty relaxed in the gym, this is a hobby for me so I try to mix things I don’t like doing with things I do like, particularly when they are accessories. And if a machine is being used, I tend to just do something else rather than stick to my original plan. Is my approach the most efficient? No. But I don’t need more stress in my life, so that’s how I do things.
Gyms closed at the beginning of the month again for me. We have bought a setup and we’re just waiting for the rack to arrive. So shutdowns won’t be a problem anymore. Right now I am just trying out some weightlifting techniques until the rack arrives.
Before gyms closed we didn’t know when our equipment would get here. So I tested my maxes after just 10 weeks of AtS. I was really happy with where I ended up. I improved a lot in my form, doing long sessions with 3-4 reps in reserve lets you eek out a lot of issues. I still have plenty to work through, but that’s never going to go away.
Squat: 60 kg to 65 kg (132 lbs to 143 lbs)
Deadlift: 80 kg to 85 kg (176 lbs to 187 lbs) (I was going to post my video of this but it was a truly ugly lift. Better to just leave it to the imagination)
Bench: 35 kg to 37.5 kg (77 lbs to 82.5 lbs)
OHP: 7 kg DB to 23 kg (also helpful having microplates for this) (15.4 lbs DB to 50.6 lbs)
Chin-Ups: 20 kg assisted to ALMOST 1 unassisted (44 lbs assist to almost 0)
Here are my photos NSFW (in tight shorts and sports bra).
BIN was a great option for me. It was relatively cheap and it gave me the tools I actually needed. They have more involved programs, but I didn’t really need that. I barely noticed the cut. I frequently had calories leftover at the end of the day, which turned into a little snack (Snyder’s Honey Mustard Pretzels almost every time). I am starting to feel a bit hungrier at this point, so I am glad to be moving back to maintaining. While I won’t have my coach anymore, I plan to increase calories similarly to what we did in the beginning of the program. I then want to maintain through the holidays and think about another cut starting in January.
I 100% would encouarage anyone who struggles with cuts to look into BIN. I cannot emphasize enough how surprised I was to lose weight on what I was eating before I even started this. This slower approach has me hooked. I know RP and others have you lose fast so you can ‘enjoy life longer’ but honestly I never stopped enjoying my life on this program. I still had some alcohol, I had days where I was way off on my goals. But I am very happy with not only the fat loss, but also my strength gains. I had the flexibility to eat when I was hungry, and nothing was really off limits. I avoided some foods because it was just hard to get protein in if I ate it (like pizza) but honestly I was pretty ok without it. If you aren’t in a weight class sport or into bodybuilding, I wholeheartedly encourage you to try this approach.
My goals are changing a bit now that we are working out in our apartment. We have to do controlled eccentric now, so how that affects my training will be interesting. I would like to get back to +55 squats for reps by summer next year. I also want to get to a 50 kg (110 lbs) bench now that we will have our own setup. Deadlift goal is still 100 kg for next year and I want to start doing unassisted chinups for reps, and eventually pullups (these will get easier when I drop more body fat next year).
EDIT: Was only linked to my back photos. Changed to link the album